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Monday, March 27, 2017

PaGA2017: Day 1 Honolulu to Tokyo

To continue my posting of yesterday, Pat's Global Adventure of 2017 (PaGA2017), my ANA flight on a Dreamliner in Business Class was, perhaps, the best I've had at this level.  The service was extraordinary, and they even gave me a signed cup as a gift:


Champagne was served on the ground, followed by a Bloody Mary with assorted nuts.  The meal was a Japanese bento, which was not particularly extraordinary, but interesting, with a glass of Chardonnay, Sapporo beer and hot sake:


I watched two excellent films:  The Accountant (Rotten Tomatoes, 51 reviewers/78 audiences) which was one of Ben Afleck's best, and A Man Called Ove (RT 90/87), about a lovable curmudgeon.  You know, something has happened to Sweden, just like South Korea:  they now make the best films!  Remember The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared?  Also from Sweden.

ANA's audio-visual system is particularly outstanding, as I was able to program 50 tunes/pieces while the plane was still on the ground.  Normally I fiddle around for an hour trying to do this.  I thus watched those films, then listen to my "jukebox" for four hours while I tried to sleep, which mostly failed.  A choice of 52 movie channels, 142 video  stations, 148 audio sites and 9 gaming links.  There are nine language options and SKYTRAX has bestowed to ANA a prestigious 5-star ranking.

I had a Suntory Hibiki with coffee while watching Ove:



A special feature is a whole list of dishes you can have at your whim.  So a few hours after that lunch, I ordered a truly terrific grilled maguro (tuna) on grated yam on hot rice with green onions  and nori, plus some cold sake:


Japan:


From leaving 15 Craigside to arriving at the Tokyo Westin on the Airport Limousine bus took 14 hours:


I've stayed here more than any other hotel.  It was 23 years ago in October when, the first week it opened, Pearl and I were one of the first occupants.  The service, size and niceness of rooms, good temperature control, TV music channel to which I fall asleep, proximity to Robuchon (across the street), Ebesu Garden Place (with a large Mitsukoshi including a basement market), ease of train travel, location where I leave my large suitcase while I galavant around Japan with a small roller, both The Japan Times and The New York Times, are delivered to my room, and, always, a view of Mount Fuji.  Here was the scene when I walked into my room:


I particularly enjoy their Executive Lounge, where I manytimes have a simple dinner:


Their pumpkin soup is exceptional.  I ended with a Johnny Walker Black Label on spherical ice.

After a full eight hours sleep without once getting up I awoke to Mount Fuji:


I should also add that the Tokyo Westin has three excellent restaurants, plus a breakfast area which is extraordinary.  Here is what I had this morning, for free:


I took a dozen photos of the food stations, noodle bar, cooking options and such, but you get the point.  So far, I've been away from home almost 36 hours, and all my meals have been free.  However, the concierge arranged for me to have lunch at Monna Lisa after I arrange for my Japan Rail Pass itinerary.  So return for that meal, plus, I've decided to pick up something from Mitsubishi and Robuchon to enjoy the setting sun and Mount Fuji in my room for dinner tonight.

But first, another photo of Mount Fuji:


When you travel, you get different insights about the USA.  As tomorrow is a travel day, I will address The Matter of Making American Great, Again.

Tropical Cyclone Debbie struck the Queensland Coast at 115 MPH this afternoon:


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Sunday, March 26, 2017

PAT'S GLOBAL ADVENTURE 2017

Until I come up with a better acronym, PaGA2017, for Pat's Global Adventure 2017, will suffice.  Today, I begin my 42-day world journey to Japan, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Seoul, Munich, DC, San Francisco, Palo Alto and a week of golf near Napa Valley.  Remember Around the World in 80 Days (this is Jackie Chan's full movie) when Phileas Fogg gained an extra day by going east?  Well, I actually lose a day by heading west, so I will be away for 43 days.

Someone asked me, what do these around the world trips cost?  Basically, if you fly first class and stay at the finest hotels, you could buy a Lexus Hybrid.  I've done that twice--the travel part--meaning I could have afforded this new sportier version to the right.  Business Class would get you a new Toyota Prius, while Coach, a Honda Fit.  My Fit is now 9 years old, and it would have made a lot more sense to get a new Prius than go on this trip.

On this itinerary, I've attempted to minimize stress by avoiding China (Hong Kong does not require a visa, and the air pollution is tolerable), India, Africa and South America.  There is that petulant Kim Jung Un, but his latest rockets fizzled.

My 8-hour ANA flight from Honolulu to Narita will soon depart:


From Tokyo I will catch the Japanese Bullet Train for two weeks using Japan Railpass to follow the Cherry Blossom blooms.  The season opened a few days ago, so I should be there at the peak.

Tropical Cyclone Debbie will make landfall near Queensland Tuesday morning, perhaps as a Category 2:


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Saturday, March 25, 2017

15 CRAIGSIDE FINE DINES AT KA'IKENA LAUA'E


Ka'Ikena Laua'e, meaning vision with a view, has now for 28 years been the fine dining restaurant at the Kapiolani College campus.  It's both a learning laboratory and showcase for high cuisine.  Next year, they will relocate to the old Cannon Club.  By the time all is done, this will be a $50 million investment for the school's Hawaii Culinary Institute of the Pacific.

You can bring your own alcoholic beverages.  I would recommend also taking your favorite Reidel crystal, for the wine glass they use is below pedestrian level.  There must be a conscience factor at play, for they think by providing tiny glasses, diners will drink less.


While I'm at providing constructive criticism, let me add:
  • The noise level is too high.  Some people talk and laugh too heartily.  However, perhaps the relocation will cure this problem.  Plus, the new view will be uber-fantastic.  The present one is not bad (above).
  • The food was way too lukewarm.  They need to do something about the temperature.  If most restaurants can do this, no reason why these students can't.
  • The 15 Craigside chopsticks are of higher quality.  But they have white tablecloths and we have unsanitary table mats.
  • They could add some classy music.  Perhaps a strolling student quietly playing a romantic violin or soft piano sounds.
  • The artwork on the walls should be from student artists.
  • Frankly, they go overboard on making each dish too fancy.  Some simple accompaniments would balance the meal.
Otherwise, the food quality is better than 15 Craigside, and the dress code is similar to our dining room, meaning a lot of slippers and shorts.  The meal price is not cheap, at all.  However, this place is so popular that 15C is having trouble trying to get a reservation to send a second set of diners here.  Call 808 734 9499 if you want to eat here.  After 4:30PM call 734 9488.  Here is the lunch menu for March 22 to April 27.  Click on dinner menu for our choices.

Our group, with leader, Leilyn:


See that seahorse piece of art?  You can buy it for $2500.  The start was a spoon of enhanced chawan mushi:


Excellent, except it could have been much hotter.  The wine was our standard 15 Craigside red.  There is no finer tasting healthy liquid for the price.

I had a scallops/soba concoction (see the menu above):


The taste was there, but cooler than lukewarm.  Here, they could very well have instead served the traditional al dente soba style to balance the saucy seafood.  They must make the world's smallest makizushi:


I ordered beef, and it was just too busy.  Something closer to simple grilled steak would have been best to complement all the other fancy stuff:


The dessert bar was a real treat, and dangerous for people with high blood sugar:


I had a little bit of nine desserts, plus a fruit-covered creme brule', with coffee.  They should make available the option for expresso and cappuccino.

The student chefs came by to say hi:


All in all everyone enjoyed the outing, including me.  Maybe I was a bit harsh here and there, but I was disappointed that the facility had not yet moved to their future Cannon Club location.  I'll definitely be back....when they relocate.

The following evening I dined on my lanai on Japanese Wagyu Beef from J-Shop:


Note the price of the beef.  Myoga for a special Japanese tai sashimi with kazunoko, plus an assortment of lotus, shiitake mushrooms, garlic and butter in the pan, augmented by three kinds of sauce, with beer and sake.  Two bottles because I could not finish either one and they were sitting in my refrigerator for days.

Today for lunch went to Vintage Cave Cafe at the Ala Moana Shopping Center for their grand opening.  Until Tuesday, March 28, the first 200 guests/day will enjoy 50% off the entire bill.  It was earlier this month that I might have had my best lunch, ever, in Hawaii at this  restaurant.

The check-in desk:


A large side room for special occasions and group meals (there are several of different sizes):


My previous time here I was served by  Kuber also:


I ordered a truffle pizza and chicken salad, with a rose'.


It looks like that middle shaving of truffle was on rice, but that is a poached egg.  Nice touch.  By the time I had dessert the place was half full:


The panna cotta was artistic and tasted great.  The price?  $45 for two courses, coffee and dessert.  But I paid extra for the truffle pizza, and that glass of rose' was $20.  My final bill was $40 plus tax and tip.  At this price, they should do well.  But $100 for everything after the grand opening discount could become a problem.  Plus, I don't think the clientele coming here would appreciate American jazz.  Some high class Italian music would provide a higher state of ambience.

All in all one of my better lunches in Honolulu.  And they do use real black truffles.

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Tropical Cyclone Debbie looks fierce, with the potential to reach Category 5 status, and is heading for Townsville: